California is inching closer to becoming the first state or city in the U.S. to ban bisphenol A in food and beverage containers intended for children age 3 and younger. And the U.S. Senate isn't far behind in demanding regulators err on the side of caution when evaluating the health risks to children from chemicals.
The legislative initiatives come closely after the decision last month by Canada's health ministry, Health Canada, to propose a ban on polycarbonate baby bottles and actions by several bottle manufacturers to eliminate or phase out PC bottles.
The California Senate approved a bill May 15 by a 22-15 vote that would ban the use of BPA in baby bottles, training cups and infant formula cans intended for children 3 and younger. The measure now heads to the state Assembly.
Meanwhile, at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on plastics additives in consumer products in Washington on May 14, several senators suggested the labeling of baby bottles and children's products was possible. They also made clear their dissatisfaction with the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
``In my judgment, the FDA could hardly be doing less,'' Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., told Norris Alderson, associate commissioner for science at the FDA, who heads the agency task force evaluating safety concerns about BPA. Those concerns were amplified last month when a National Toxicology Program report said there was some concern BPA could affect puberty, mammary and prostate glands, and neurological-behavioral systems.
``I am concerned that the agencies designed to protect consumers are not doing their job,'' Kerry said. ``The FDA has simply promised they will look at more studies, not take more action. The American public is not being protected.''
He also chided the FDA for not initiating its own studies on BPA. ``You don't protect the American people if all you do is look at what is handed to you,'' he said.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who introduced a bill late month to ban the use of PBA in products for children age 7 and younger, agreed. ``We cannot wait any longer. We must act. Parents always err on the side of caution when it comes to their kids' health. We think that the law should do the same.''
Alderson reiterated FDA's position that such products are safe.
``At this time, FDA is not recommending that consumers discontinue using food-contact materials that contain BPA. We think that these products are safe,'' he told the Consumer Affairs, Insurance, and Automotive Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. ``A large body of current evidence indicates that food contact materials containing BPA are safe and that exposure levels for infants and children are well below the levels that may cause health effects.
``The studies FDA have reviewed show that the amount of BPA that is going to leach into the bottle is safe. At this point, the data we have seen does not lead us to change our position.''
Alderson said he did not think the FDA would object to labeling requirements for products such as baby bottles and products intended for children.